Written by: Karissa Ketter, News Writer
Content warning: mention of police brutality
Access for All Campaign
VP university and academic affairs Serena Bains introduced the Access for All campaign in response to SFU’s announcement that 70–80% of classes will be offered in person for the Fall 2021 semester. This comes after the provincial government released their COVID-19 reopening plan for universities.
According to Bains’ proposal, the university’s reopening plan “will have disproportionate negative impacts on disabled, neurodivergent, international, mature, Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) students.” Bains called to form a working group to draft a letter to SFU and provincial government advocating for a list of demands.
Risks highlighted by Bains include inaccessible education, international students’ capacity to travel to Canada, BIPOC students experiencing medical racism and “increased financial stress,” and students who are immunocompromised or unable to get vaccinated.
They asked for increased communication with student groups to better understand the impact a return would have.
“It is of utmost importance that meaningful consultation with marginalized communities occur for the campaign to accurately represent the needs of the SFU community for a safe, equitable, and accessible return to campus in the Fall 2021,” Bains said.
Kashish Mehta, representative from the Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology Student Association, said she is glad to support this campaign “because not everyone is currently comfortable with going to campus in the fall, especially those who have been severely affected by COVID-19.” She highlighted the return to campus is “not just about whether you’re physically capable.” It should also consider the mental health of students experiencing anxiety around the return, she explained.
Sustainable energy engineering representative Mohammed Al-Sheboul suggested Bains include demands to offer “live lectures at the same time as the actual lecture so you can either go to class or attend class online.”
The vaccinations are roughly 60% effective after the first dose, according to Software System representative Shashank Thanalapati, who questioned, “How many people by the first day of class will actually have both their doses?”
Through feedback from other SFSS members, Bains amended the motion to prioritize speaking with international and migrant students for consultation.
The motion was passed unanimously.
Supporting Colombian Protests with Council Statement
Bains subsequently introduced a motion calling on Council to create a working group of students to draft a statement regarding the protests occurring in Colombia.
“Since April 28, a series of protests have occurred in Colombia. These protests are in response to a tax bill proposed by the government [that] would apply a value-added tax on foods, utilities, wages, pensions, and other basic necessities — which will disproportionately impact the working class,” explained Bains.
Protesters are asking for the tax bill to be withdrawn, tax reform to address the growing economic gap, and social justice for marginalized groups.
Approximately 50 people have died due to police brutality and more have gone missing, according to Bains. The protests are ongoing and there is currently no sign of negotiations.
The motion was carried unanimously. Serena Bains and world literature representative Sara Aristizabal Castaneda will co-chair the working group.
The Council receives a presentation from PCI Group
PCI Group is a Vancouver-based development company. Zoe Boal from Pottinger Bird Community Relations, a local real estate firm, introduced a development plan as a collaboration between PCI Group and BHA Architecture.
Apartments and retail space are scheduled to be built at 3555 Hastings Street. This is a secured market rental housing project that will offer an additional 56 units that will range from studio apartments to one, two, and three bedroom apartments.
Duff Mars, architect with BHA Architecture said, “What I hope happens is that [this will] inject life into all the retail that’s being offered in the area.”
Councillors raised the idea of the development contributing to gentrification and suggested “consultation with Indigenous communities.”
In regards to gentrification, Connor Suech, development consultant for PCI said, “We really like to put an emphasis on amenities, and giving back to the community in any way we can.” Mars added, “There’s a barbecue and seating area [on the rooftop].”
VP events and students affairs Jess Dela Cruz raised concerns around affordability, and this concern was echoed by other Council members.
Due to the development’s close proximity to SFU Vancouver, Boal explained their presentation “is just about consultation with a demographic that would very much likely want to live in a project like this.”
Boal said they would continue the conversation.